North Korea, Eritrea have world’s highest rates of modern slavery — report

More than 40 million people were enslaved around the world as of 2016. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 July 2018
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North Korea, Eritrea have world’s highest rates of modern slavery — report

  • China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded out the top five nations with the largest number of slaves
  • Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people living in modern slavery in India

NEW YORK: North Korea and Eritrea have the world’s highest rates of modern slavery, said a global survey on Thursday that highlighted how conflict and government repression are the main drivers of a crime estimated to affect more than 40 million people worldwide.
The Central African nation of Burundi also has a high prevalence of slavery, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index published by the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
“Each of these three countries has state-sponsored forced labor, where their government puts its own people to work for its own benefit,” said Fiona David, research chair of Minderoo Foundation, which led the data collection.
More than 40 million people were enslaved around the world as of 2016, according to an estimate by the Walk Free Foundation and the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO).
India was home to the largest total number with an estimated 8 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population, according to Walk Free’s 2018 calculation.
Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people living in modern slavery in India. The difference is due to changes in methodology, Walk Free said, reflecting ways of counting people enslaved on any given day or over a longer time period.
China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded out the top five nations with the largest number of slaves, accounting for about 60 percent of victims globally, according to Walk Free.
But North Korea had the highest percentage of its population enslaved, with one in 10 people are in modern slavery and “the clear majority forced to work by the state,” the index said.
Researchers interviewed 50 North Korean defectors who spoke of long hours and inhumane conditions in forced unpaid labor for adults and children in farming, construction and roadbuilding.
“This index makes us visible,” said Yeon-Mi Park, a defector who spoke at a news conference at United Nations headquarters.
“These people simply were born in the wrong place, and that’s what they are being punished for,” she said, describing being trafficked into China where she was sold as a child bride.
Another defector Jang Jin-Sung said North Koreans do not consider themselves slaves.
“They’ve been indoctrinated all their lives to think that whatever they do for the state is a good thing,” he said.
In Eritrea, the report said the government is “a repressive regime that abuses its conscription system to hold its citizens in forced labor for decades.”
Burundi’s government also imposes forced labor, Walk Free said, while rights groups including Human Rights Watch have implicated its security forces in murders and disappearances.
Other countries with the highest rates of slavery were the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan.
“Most of these countries are marked by conflict, with breakdowns in rule of law, displacement and a lack of physical security,” the report said.
With more than nine million people living in slavery — nearly eight in every 1,000 people — Africa had the highest rate of enslavement of any region, according to the report.
The researchers also warned that consumers in affluent countries may be purchasing billions of dollars worth of products manufactured with slave labor, including computers, mobile phones and clothing.
“Modern slavery is a first-world problem,” said Andrew Forrest, a co-founder of Australia-based Walk Free. “We are the consumers. We can fix it,” he added.
Slavery is likely more widespread than the research suggests, activists and experts say. The report noted gaps in data from Arab states, as well as a lack of information on organ trafficking and the recruitment of children by armed groups.


Brazil seeks to privatize key stretches of Amazon highways

Updated 45 min 44 sec ago
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Brazil seeks to privatize key stretches of Amazon highways

  • President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is seeking to overhaul Brazil’s poor transportation infrastructure
  • The Trans-Amazonian highway was inaugurated in the 1970s but only a fraction of its nearly 3,000 kilometers were paved
BRASILIA: Brazil will add the Trans-Amazonian Highway to the list of projects for privatization, its infrastructure minister said on Tuesday, seeking new investment to pave part of a dictatorship-era roadway already blamed for extensive deforestation.
The road concession will be added to a priority list for privatization at a meeting next month, Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Freitas told Reuters in an interview.
The government will package a short section of highway with a concession to run a major section of BR-163, a key northern route for shipping Brazilian grains, a ministry spokesman said later on Tuesday. The 40-km (25-mile) section of the Trans-Amazonian up for privatization will connect BR-163 with the river port of Miritituba in northern state of Para, the spokesman said.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is seeking to overhaul Brazil’s poor transportation infrastructure, which raises costs and causes delays for the commodity-exporting powerhouse, by seeking private investors to operate dozens of road, rail and airport projects.
On Monday, government Secretary Adalberto Vasconcelos, who has been tasked with creating public-private infrastructure partnerships, said the country would privatize more airports and secure new investment for railways.
For roadways, five concessions are slated for auction this year with a long pipeline of projects to follow, according to Freitas. BR-262/381 in the state of Minas Gerais, sometimes called the “Road of Death” because its poor condition has contributed to lethal accidents, will also be put on the privatization list next month, he said.
The Trans-Amazonian highway, officially known as BR-230, was inaugurated in the 1970s under Brazil’s military dictatorship, but only a fraction of its nearly 3,000 kilometers (1,864-miles) were paved and much of the existing roadway has fallen into disrepair. It stretches from the coastal state of Paraiba deep into Amazonas state. Original plans for it to reach the border with Peru were never completed.
Nevertheless, research by Brazil’s space agency and academics has linked the road to a rise in deforestation, and road improvements allowing easier access deep into the Amazon have consistently led to increased deforestation nearby.
He said that major construction firms that were implicated in corruption schemes remain unable to participate in public auctions for infrastructure projects, but could act as subcontractors for winners of concession auctions.
Engineering conglomerates Odebrecht SA and Andrade Gutierrez SA, both implicated in corruption schemes to fix contracts, signed leniency deals with the government admitting guilt and agreeing to cooperate, which allows them to contest government contracts. Companies linked to corruption but without such leniency deals may be subject to legal challenges.
“They are companies that have know-how, companies with engineering (ability), companies that can provide good services,” Freitas said.